Oil prices rise after tanker attacks stoke Middle East tensions

It was the second time in a month tankers have been attacked at the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important zone for oil supplies, as tensions increase between the US and Iran. (AP)
Updated 17 June 2019
0

Oil prices rise after tanker attacks stoke Middle East tensions

  • Second time in a month tankers have been attacked in the world’s most important zone for oil supplies
  • Washington blames Iran for Thursday’s attacks

TOKYO: Oil prices rose on Monday after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington will take all actions necessary to guarantee safe navigation in the Middle East, as tensions mounted following attacks on tankers last week.
Brent futures had climbed 26 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $62.27 a barrel by 0314 GMT. They gained 1.1 percent on Friday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 17 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $52.68 a barrel. They rose 0.4 percent in the previous session.
Prices had jumped as much as 4.5 percent on Thursday after the attacks on two oil tankers near Iran and the Strait of Hormuz.
It was the second time in a month tankers have been attacked in the world’s most important zone for oil supplies as tensions increase between the United States and Iran. Washington blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks, prompting a denial and criticism from Tehran.
“We don’t want war. We’ve done what we can to deter this,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News Sunday, adding: “The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior.”
Tensions between Iran and the United States have risen since US President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal last year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iran has repeatedly warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot sell its oil because of US sanctions.
“Growing tensions in the Middle East remain a cause for concern as traders fear supply disruptions over an escalation toward militaristic conflicts,” said Benjamin Lu, an analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.
Also supporting prices were comments over the weekend by the Saudi energy minister, Khalid Al-Falih, that OPEC would probably meet in the first week of July and he hoped it would reach an agreement on extending oil output curbs.
“We are hoping that we will reach consensus to extend our agreement when we meet in two weeks time in Vienna,” Falih told reporters while attending a G20 energy and environment ministerial meeting in Karuizawa, northwest of Tokyo.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, have a deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1. The pact ends this month and the group meets in coming weeks to decide the next move.
US energy companies also cut the number of oil rigs operating for a second week in a row, with production growth expected to slow as crude prices fell to near their lowest levels of the year.


China opens up finance sector to more foreign investment

Updated 20 July 2019
0

China opens up finance sector to more foreign investment

  • China will remove shareholding limits on foreign ownership of securities, insurance and fund management firms in 2020
  • Beijing has long promised to further open up its economy to foreign business participation and investment

BEIJING: China lifted some restrictions on foreign investment in the financial sector Saturday, as the world’s second largest economy fights slowing growth at home and a damaging trade war with the US.
China will remove shareholding limits on foreign ownership of securities, insurance and fund management firms in 2020, a year earlier than originally planned, the Financial Stability and Development Committee said in a statement posted by the central bank Saturday.
Foreign investors will also be encouraged to set up wealth management firms, currency brokerages and pension management companies, the statement said.
Beijing has long promised to further open up its economy to foreign business participation and investment but has generally dragged its feet in implementing the moves — a major point of contention with Washington and Brussels.
Saturday’s announcement followed a Friday meeting chaired by economic czar Liu He where policymakers focused on tackling financial risk and financial contagion and pledged new steps to support growth, according to a state council statement.
Additional measures include scrapping entry barriers for foreign insurance companies like a requirement of 30 years of business operations and canceling a 25 percent equity cap on foreign ownership of insurance asset management firms.
Foreign owned credit rating agencies will also be allowed to evaluate a greater number of bond and debt types, the statement said.
US President Donald Trump has launched a damaging tariff war in an attempt to force Beijing to further open up its economy and limit what he calls its unfair trade practices.
The US and China have hit each other with punitive tariffs covering more than $360 billion in two-way trade.
Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to revive fractious trade negotiations when they met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan on June 29 and top US and Chinese negotiators have held phone talks this month.